When AboMshosa were 'it'

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

Reasons for rejoicing at being in South Africa were sporadic and often insignificant in the 1980s. But there were some special and funny moments, especially in matters of fashion and trends.

From Mohlakeng to Springs, dressing to the nines was called "Jewish". And though darkies have always liked their clothes expensive and swanky, they was no match for the colourful dress style of the pantsulas.

Save for the younger pantsulas, who opted for cheaper casual wear, fully fledged pantsulas were the kings and queens of expensive garb. Brentwood trousers were favoured and penduka skirts were show-stoppers.

Fong Kongs were not as prevalent then, but they defined true klevas from the bharis (people new to township life).

The pantsulas were the know-it-alls of Jozi. Theirs was a lifestyle of drinking together, burying one another and saving money together.

They started the trend of saving and socialising that led to stokvels. And there was a pantsula dance, made unisex by the queen of pantsula moves, Mercy Pakela, who proved to be more of a dancer than a singer.

Pantsula women were a clan on their own. Though their men had volatile tempers and could throw klaps at the slightest provocation, these women were notorious for getting their own back and carrying dangerous weapons, such as okapis, in their bras.

And fights would often start for the most absurd reasons.

If a woman asked another: Unyathela ini ngani? (What brand of shoe are you treading on mine with?), a fight would ensue.

They were called AboMshoza, a name depicting street wisdom in the female form.

One Lindi woman, from Qwaqwa in the eastern Free State, tried to get married to a neighbouring thug well-known for drinking himself into a stupor in an attempt to alleviate the pain caused by the braces in his jaws.

She came to Tembisa and the neighbours watched the story very closely. She played loud music, sang along with the wrong lyrics and was always waving her okapi for show before returning it to her beret - another trademark of pantsula women.

There was always a need for people who came out of Gauteng to go the extra mile to show they had arrived. And it didn't help that drinking was the symbol of having "arrived".

Back then, the drink for the men was Lion lager. The print ad for the beer featured a model who seemed stronger than Samson himself, but the imbibers often complained of chest problems.

I will never know if these pains were from the Lion lager or from the Gold Dollar or Lexington cigarettes they smoked.

And, as if it were not enough that one Drum writer famously declared "Let the people drink, they are drinking anyway", alcohol manufacturers were not happy that only men were their loyal clientele.

They wanted women too in their ranks and came up with drinks such as Castello Ginger Frizz, Manhattan Lemon Sting, Espirit and Crossbow - all targeted at women. Soon there were all sorts of other ciders, including Hooch, Hunter's Gold and the numerous other brands you find in bars these days.

All this drinking made a comeback after it had seemed to reach a shy end in the 1980s, when politicised students figured that the world would be a better place without the infamous beer halls that had mushroomed in the townships in the early 1980s.

As the drinks started looking and tasting better, so did the drinking places - the shebeens got facelifts

Then came television, which seemed to dictate the lives of black people - much to their annoyance.

Some people protested that there were too many coloured-looking television personalities on TV.

It was around the same time that the marathon fraud trial of the National Soccer League's Abdul Bhamjee and Cyril Kobus began. They were said to have connived to pocket millions of rands from the game.

Twenty years ago they came up with the brainwave of staging a four-team extravaganza to aid South African charities.

They were also the prime influences behind the construction of the FNB Stadium, where the charity soccer event is now held yearly.